CAPE TOWN, South Africa – South Africa has detected a new variant of the deadly coronavirus, named the Zaire strain, which is associated with the deadly SARS outbreak.
Following extensive testing, health officials identified the new form of Zaire coronavirus after a laboratory sample tested positive for the deadly respiratory illness – the first time in the country a sample has been found positive for the virus.
“Our last few months have seen a lot of progress in the whole Zaire coronavirus identification process,” Dr. Kathe Mbhele, head of the Rapid Response and Disease Prevention team at the South African Department of Health said.
“The complexity and high burden of this coronavirus has left us no option but to wait until we can identify all the known variant strains in the world,” he added.
The news comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) releases its global update of the deadly coronavirus, saying that the death toll continues to decline, and that infections in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Russia have dropped substantially.
But in the updated report, WHO says cases in the Middle East are still being reported despite high containment efforts, and patients are being diagnosed too late to understand the severity of their illness.
The SARS outbreak started in 2002-2003, and more than 700 people died of the virus across the world. The deadly SARS strain is found in a geographical region – that’s the Middle East – that’s seen the highest number of outbreaks.